Monday, November 28, 2011

The Bali Journals: Part 1

And so the adventure begins... first, an excruciatingly long nine hour flight from Honolulu to Seoul, S. Korea on S. Korea’s national carrier... my first experience with this airline. The pluses: Economy Class seats offer a bit more leg room than other carriers I have previously flown, each seat having it’s own video monitor and a vast array of video programming, everything from recent & current hits fresh out of Hollywood to classic films from Asia to english subtitled Korean News programming ( repeatedly discussing the pros & cons of the newly formed free trade agreements forged between the USA and S. Korea from a decidedly non-USA perspective. Refreshing.) to several tired, old American sitcoms. There was also the ubiquitous interactive video gaming & flight-mapping to entertain and while away the torturous in-flight hours. Coffee served in-flight was actually very decent and far superior to the weak, tepid swill thrust upon you by most other carriers. Another plus for me was watching the very odd, crisply starched costumes worn by the cabin crew, who were very attentive, almost to the point of annoying during the first three hours of the trip, constantly plying up & down the aisles with their drink, food & snack carts, odd starched neckerchiefs jutting out in geometric angles resembling alien antennae. Minuses: Korean food... something I generally enjoy was edible but only barely & no hard liquor available, though wine (I declined) was constantly and generously offered throughout the duration. The relatively generous leg room in Economy Class came, apparently, at the sacrifice of seat cushion thickness. After nine hours confined to this torture device, my bum is still aching 48 hours later. 
Daylight followed us the entire time as we crossed to Pacific, arriving at Inchen Airport, on the outskirts of Seoul, just before sunset. Inchen Airport appears well appointed with a multitude of shops, spas, cafes, very well ventilated smoking “aquariums” and an airport hotel for those long layovers. On my way over, I had only an hour before my connecting flight to Denpasar, Bali. On my return , there’s a 10 hour layover and I will further explore Inchen and report my findings.
The flight to Denpasar, another 7 1/2 hour ordeal was only half full, populated by mostly young chinese groups apparently enjoying their relatively new freedom to travel and the benefits of a booming economy. Seasoned, courteous & patient travelers they are not. We’ll leave it at that. This leg of the journey found me with a two-seater row all to myself, the extra space to stretch out was more than welcome. My bum still paid the price. I did manage to sleep for an hour or two before arriving at Ngurah Rai Airport in Denpasar, Bali, though nearly an hour late. My fellow travelers/plane-mates began crowding the aisles even before the plane had come to a full stop at our arrival terminal. I decided to hang back in my seat, regardless of the desperation of my aching bum, to avoid the potential of being trampled in the aisles. Finally off the plane, we paraded thru the maze of long hallways plastered with travel posters depicting all the mysteries awaiting us on the Island of the Gods until we eventually queued up en-masse at the series of immigration desks where uniformed guards waved us to approach, one by one, to pay our Visa On Arrival Tax, then to another series of desks where stern faced immigration officials lacklusterly stamped our passports and sent us on our way to retrieve luggage and pass through Customs checkpoints. As luck would have it, Customs officials were less than interested in the contents of our collective baggage at the late hour, waving most of us through the checkpoints without even glancing at our bags, then past a line of money changer kiosks and then out the doors of the Arrival Terminal where we were instantly enveloped by the warmth & humidity of the equatorial night & set upon by the waiting throng of drivers, taksi (taxi) operators.
Making my way through the mass of anxious drivers shouting “You like transporrrrrt, boss?”, I found chief fixer, driver extraordinaire, and my brother from another mother, Adi, waiting patiently and smiling profusely thru the crowd of faces & waving arms. Exchanging warm greetings, we hoisetd the bags into the back of the car and headed through the night stillness towards Legain, my first destination of the journey.

1 comment:

SO said...

Aloha Tony and Aloha Adi !!